How India Changed Tea Forever
Spiced and scented, chai is one of those soul-warming wellness teas that stays with you. While in many parts of the world the word chai simply means tea, here in the west it means a certain kind of tea. One that is rich and fragrant with a bounty of spices like cinnamon, star anise, turmeric, and twists of black pepper. Slightly spicy and slightly sweet, chai tea is ayurvedic medicine for the body, mind, and soul. You can drink it black and simple or you can add milk for a creamy flavor.
Chai tea originated in India and is also called Masala Tea. Chai kickstarted its life in the 1920s. While India was one of the main suppliers of the black tea leaves that were being transported to England, most people in India didn’t drink tea. It was an expensive habit to get into. But the Indian Tea Associated wanted to change that so they could see their profits soar.
Around the same time as the first world war they convinced all companies to give their workers ‘a tea break’ and set up shops and stalls selling tea at railway stations and outside workplaces. Other people started to do the same, and to stand out from the competition these savvy individuals started adding popular spices to their teas. Hence, the spicy milky sweet chai masala was born. As India was a culture that loved milky lassi drinks and often turned to boiling spices and water as traditional medicine it only seemed natural that chai would be their soothing creation.
Chai often uses the black leaves as its tea base and then there are added spices and flavors that mix into this. The ingredients within chai can vary but often it contains some variation of the following:
- Star Anise
- Coriander Seeds
- Black Pepper
As you can see all these flavors are super soothing and blend together spiciness with sweetness. It’s thanks to these delicious spices (and the black tea base) that add up to chai being a high-quality drink that brims with health benefits. Many of these spices are used in traditional Chinese medicine and Indian ayurvedic medicine too. We take a look at all the amazing ways that chai can bring its healing goodness to your cup.
From giving your immunity a massive boost to stopping aches and pains in their tracks, there are so many health benefits that come tucked up inside your cups of chai tea. Not only will this special spiced brew warm you to the core, but it also has a pinch of caffeine to get your energy going and can help with everything from heart health to weight loss and helping the body detox.
Chai brings its own blend of deliciousness and the fact that it also uses the Camellia Sinensis plant as its tea base means that you get all the bountiful benefits of black tea!
Let’s take a deep dive into the world of chai tea and see exactly how it can bring its healing vibes to your home…
Chai is ripe with powerful antioxidant properties that come not only from the polyphenols found in tea but also the spices too. Black tea (the base of chai) helps to protect cells from free radicals which can lead to everything from cancer to the signs of ageing.
Specifically, Indian black teas have been studied and it has been found that they contain some of the highest antioxidant properties out of all the different types of tea. Combine that with a blend that has cardamom – a spice also rich in antioxidants and you have a healing brew that will definitely do!
2) Weight loss
The melody of black tea and carefully chosen spices are also believed to assist with healthy weight loss plans. Black tea is already known for helping the body burn fat and encouraging a lesser calorie count. When blended with cinnamon, this spice is known for a whole host of properties that can help with weight loss – from reducing cholesterol to dealing with blood sugar levels. But most of all, it seems that the studies show that cinnamon may be able to boost your metabolism, which means you can turn calories into energy quicker.
3) Heart health
In order to tick like clockwork our hearts rely on healthy blood pressure levels along with solid and safe cholesterol levels too. Fortunately, chai tea can set you on the straight and narrow when it comes to heart health. Cardamom is said to be a heart healer and cinnamon can help to regulate blood sugar levels and studies have shown that this spice can lead to a healthy heart. Black tea comes with superhero properties for your cardiovascular health too. Black tea also works by lowering bad cholesterol which gives your heart a fighting chance at staying fit and healthy.
Whether dealing with something as simple as toothache or more complicated chronic pain issues, chai can help to reduce those aches and pains. This special brew is chock full of spices that are loaded with anti-inflammatory properties – ginger for increasing circulation which can send oxygen heavy red blood cells where they are needed and black tea can also help reduce inflammation as studies have shown. From Alzheimer’s disease to arthritis, reducing inflammation in the body can help with a whole range of ailments.
5) Immune system
Give your immune system a mighty boost as you nurse a steaming cup of sweet chai tea. Not only does black tea boost your immunity but the wild array of spices are fat with immune boosting properties. Ginger is one of the best things for your gut and when you have a healthy gut you are more than ready to fend off colds and other viruses. Cardamom is also loaded with vitamin C and a whole host of other immune boosting properties that keep you well protected.
6) Reduce blood sugar levels
Cinnamon and ginger are a force to be reckoned with when you get them together. Part of their powerful healing properties include their ability to stabilize blood sugar levels. Ginger was found to help lower blood sugar for those suffering with type 2 diabetes and cinnamon helped to lower blood glucose in those who were dealing with insulin resistance.
7) Heart disease
Consuming three cups of black tea a day (the base of chai) is believed to help lower your risks of coronary heart disease. Three cheers for that news! A study in the UK found that the flavonoids within black tea were great for overall heart health and that the benefits of lowering bad cholesterol cut down plaque build-ups in the arteries - a condition which can lead to heart disease and stroke risks.
If you are tired of feeling full and heavy every time you eat, sipping chai after meals could help reduce the discomfort of bloating. Laced with antibacterial properties, the black tea gets to work on your gut bacteria to prevent bloating. The infusion of black pepper has also been studied and found to help the pancreas send out digestive enzymes and speed up the body’s ability to process food faster.
9) Anti-fungal properties
No one likes an unwanted fungi to show up at the party but fortunately, chai tea is the perfect gatekeeper. Find a blend with star anise and this jagged little spice is loaded with anti-fungal properties. Research has shown that this spiced star can suppress biofilm and formation of infectious fungi in humans.
10) Aids menstrual cramps
The anti-inflammatory properties that go hand in hand with the likes of ginger and cloves keep cramps down to the bare minimum. There’s nothing more soothing than curling up with a cup of chai and letting those soothing elements get to work on your body. Fennel has also been the subject of scientific research and reducing period pain. Clove also contains eugenol which can help inhibit certain pain receptors.
11) Boosts energy
Chai actually contains more caffeine in it than the regular black tea as it tends to be made from CTC types of tea leaf which have a higher caffeine count. While chai certainly won’t be in the same caffeine rich camp as coffee, it does have enough caffeine in it to wake you up and bring a boost to those who are slumping into fatigue. Whether you make your chai tea as a morning pick-me-up or to pull you out of an afternoon work slump, this heady concoction is sure to have you on your feet.
12) Stronger bones
Drinking tea on the reg can boost your bone density according to research from the Cambridge School of Medicine. It was considered to be down to the flavonoids and other nutrients found within tea. Chai is also often served with milk and dairy tends to be rich in calcium which also has a positive effect on bone health. Even if you skip the milk, cinnamon also contains calcium.
13) Reduces tumor growth
Cloves are loaded with antioxidants and also stuffed full of antiviral and antibacterial properties to boot. These spicy-sweet little nuggets have also been studied for their ability to reduce tumor growth in vitro with positive effects.
Drinking tea as a detox is top-level self-care and no tea has you covered quite like chai. Thanks to the presence of all-round health champion cardamon, chai tea can help to detox your body, clear out your sinuses, and bring expectorant healing qualities for when you need to get something right out of your system. Many of the spices found in chai also make the top list when it comes to the ORAC value charts.
For those who are struggling to get regular or cause a shift, chai tea could provide just the movement you need. This beautiful brew brings gentle encouragement to the body thanks to the blend of black and also the combination of spices. Caffeine provides a mild laxative effect and ginger also calms the digestive system and brings a bright flush of health to your GI tract.
16) Stress relief
Looking for a natural stress buster? Here we have yet another natural reason to brew up a cup of chai tea. Tea is always a soothing routine that invites you to take a mindful moment and to reconnect with your own needs. When blended with the bounty of fragrant spices like soothing cloves, ginger, and cardamom you have a stress balancing formula that will instantly soothe the nerves.
17) Fights cancer
There have been a bunch of studies on the healing benefits of cardamom when it comes to fighting cancer. Animal studies showed that mice who were given cardamom saw an increase in the enzymes that help to fight off cancer and further tests also leaned towards cardamom preventing cancer cells from multiplying. Black tea too is known for its cancer-fighting properties. While there is of course plenty more research to be done, sipping a cup of chai certainly couldn’t hurt.
The Best Masala Chai Tea Latte Recipe
Now you have loaded up on the bountiful benefits of sitting down with masala chai, you want to find the best way to brew it up. Some people like to keep their chai simple – opting for chai blend tea bags and hot water and not much else. Others love the warmth and natural sweetener of adding milk to make it a chai latte. You can make your own chai blend by collecting spices like loose leaf black tea leaves or even green tea for your tea base and then adding in fennel, star anise, coriander seeds, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamon, a few grams of ginger, and everything else.
Start by prepping your black tea leaves and spice blend and simmering in hot water for ten minutes.
- Start by prepping your black tea leaves and spice blend and simmering in hot water for ten minutes.
- Add your mix to a teapot or your favorite cup or if using a Tea Drops, add your cardamom spiced drop into your cup.
- Boil the kettle and top up your cup with hot water.
- If using fresh leaves and spices let it all steep for five minutes. If using Tea Drops simply wait for your tea to dissolve.
- Add milk to taste (either hot or cold) and make the experience truly indulgent by adding milk froth or foam to the top.
- Sit back and breathe in deep the delicious aroma.
If you want to keep things truly simple and delicious you can check out our Chai Tea Latte kits and brew it up either warm and soothing or shake it up with ice for a delicious cold drink that quenches the thirst and feeds your body exactly what it needs.
Bursting with health benefits and spices that bring a flush of healing there is barely any risk associated with chai tea. This brew is more than just a tea, it's long been a vital component in traditional medicine and the spices used are super warm and full of antioxidants. Whether suffering from inflammation or wanting to bring your body into its best health, chai can help.
As chai can be a drink traditionally served with milk those who suffer from lactose intolerance may find that they suffer from an upset stomach after consuming chai. The caffeine element can also cause side effects if consumed in high doses. Common side effects of too much caffeine include:
- Upset stomach
All caffeinated tea should be carefully consumed to avoid any side effects. If you are sensitive to caffeine, don’t worry there are plenty of caffeine-free brews out there.
Chai tea is one of the healthiest teas to consume thanks to all those spices bringing a wealth of healing benefits. Robust, warming, bright, and fragrant – we love the creamy taste and wintery wonder of this tea. It's one of the best choices for when you want to warm up your body temperature and find a sense of hygge deep inside. But chai isn’t just for cold weather, shake it with ice and you have a summer style iced tea that wakes you right up and makes you feel vibrant and ready for whatever the world has to send your way.
Do you love chai tea or do you prefer different types of tea instead? Share all your chai thoughts with us in the comments.
Medical Disclaimer: While we have delved into the research available on the health benefits of these teas, this is for informative purposes only and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Those who have any health-related queries should reach out to a medical professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.